Morrison Government's aged care response doesn't go far enough

Published: 13 May 2021 

The $17.7 billion allocated to aged care in the federal budget is not the “once in a generation” reform package promised by the Morrison Government, and won’t be anywhere near enough to fix the systemic issues in the sector.

Some of the initiatives included in the government’s response to the Aged Care Royal Commission are a step in the right direction, but fall short of what is required.

  • Commitment to introduce regulated care hours for residents – Providers will be required to ensure residents receive 200 minutes of care per resident per day (3 hours and 20 minutes), including 40 minutes with a Registered Nurse. However, this won’t be required until 2023, despite the Royal Commission recommending a 2022 timeframe. There is also no mention of the second phase as recommended by Royal Commission, whereby care hours should be increased to 215 minutes by 2024. 
  • At least one RN will be required to be on shift for a minimum of 16 hours a day from July 2022. Independent research suggests at least one RN should be rostered on 24/7.
  • Providers will be forced to publicly disclose care minutes for residents, but no detail of what happens if providers fail to do this. Transparency also does not extend to providers being required to disclose how they spend billions of taxpayer dollars, nor is there a requirement to tie the funding to resident care. 
  • $650 million to grow and upskill the aged care workforce, including a $3700 payment per year for RNs who stay with the same provider for a year. However, there is no mention of improving wages for aged care staff or measures to retain care workers, who are among some of Australia’s lowest-paid workers.
  • An additional 33,800 training places to be created over two years for Personal Care Workers, but no mention of recruiting more registered staff to the workforce (which will be required if the government is serious about improving quality care through appropriate skill mix). 

We welcome other positive initiatives, including:

  • A commitment to create a new Aged Care Act by 2023 in line with the Royal Commission recommendations. The QNMU and our federal body the ANMF will ensure nurses and carers are consulted appropriately and involved in this process. 
  • A star ratings system, allowing older people and their families to compare the quality and safety performance of services and providers.

The government has accepted 85% of the 148 Royal Commission recommendations (either entirely or in-principle), and has rejected six outright (including introducing a Medicare-style levy to help pay for the much-needed reforms). 
Unfortunately, the two-year delay in getting money to where it needs to go (improved quality staffing levels) means elderly Australians and their families will continue to suffer. Aged care simply can’t wait until 2023 to see an increase in staffing.

The QNMU will continue to campaign to ensure the government acts faster to fix aged care and implement ratios.